A federal judge this week sentenced a Navy sailor to 25 years behind bars in a child sexual exploitation case.
Travis James Muckelroy, 27, of Newport News, developed online relationships with two girls — ages 12 and 13 — in 2021, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.
He communicated with them on Snapchat, then requested explicit photographs and videos. With at least one of the girls, he posed as a 13-year-old boy.
Prosecutors said he also talked with other girls believed to be minors but whose identities could not be confirmed. Searches of Muckelroy’s cell phone and computer found more than 560 pictures and 24 videos of child pornography, court documents said.
Muckelroy, of Newport News, has been in the Navy since 2019, recently stationed on the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford. He pleaded guilty in February to one count of “coercion and enticement” of a minor. Eight other counts pertaining to child porn were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Heck asked U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith for 30 years of prison time, saying the judge’s main concern “should be the protection of the public from Muckelroy’s sexual predations.”
Many children have their own smartphones these days, Heck wrote, “and this makes an individual like Muckelroy very dangerous.”
“This was not a one-time act or a singular lapse in judgment,” the prosecutor added. “Rather, it was the repeated sexual abuse of multiple impressionable and vulnerable minors that involved substantial effort.”
Muckeloy’s lawyer, Supervisory Assistant Federal Public Defender Keith Kimball, asked for 15 years, saying Muckelroy cooperated with investigators, pleaded guilty, lost his Navy job and “will carry the stigma and suffer the consequences of this conviction for the rest of his life.”
Kimball said Muckelroy has had deaths in his family, faced the trauma of an active shooter at his Navy base in Florida, and felt isolated in the pandemic.
“Before this, he’d lived a successful life as a son, shipmate, and friend,” Kimball wrote. “He is committed to rehabilitation.”
“I don’t want what I did to define me as a person,” Muckelroy wrote in a letter to Smith. “I know I can still become a good person … I still have time to make things right in life, and I want the chance to do that.”
Smith came down closer to the prosecution’s side, sentencing Muckelroy to 25 years, plus a lifetime of post-release supervision.
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